Night of unrest across Catalonia as top officials call for non-violence

Second day of rallies against 2017 referendum leaders' verdict ends in clashes between protesters and police

Protesters in Barcelona's Gran de Gràcia on the second night of turmoil after the Catalan trial verdict (by Pol Solà)
Protesters in Barcelona's Gran de Gràcia on the second night of turmoil after the Catalan trial verdict (by Pol Solà) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

October 16, 2019 07:28 AM

Barcelona and some major towns in Catalonia were hit by a night of unrest on Tuesday as peaceful pro-independence demonstrations later descended into turmoil.

In the capital, protesters clashed with police and set barricades made up of trash cans and other objects on fire on the second day of widespread protests over the sentencing of 9 Catalan leaders for the 2017 independence bid. Both Catalan and Spanish police charged against voters, who in turn responded by throwing objects at them and setting barricades on fire.

Other clashes occurred in cities such as Tarragona, Lleida and Sabadell resulted in at least 25 people arrested and 74 receiving medical treatment, half of which in Barcelona. None of the injuries were serious.

The unrest included sites like Barcelona's iconic Passeig de Gràcia, the boulevard including luxury shops and some of the jewels of the city's modernist architecture, and ended in the early hours of Wednesday.

On Wednesday morning, a section of Passeig de Gràcia was still cut off by the police after Tuesday evening incidents. Other streets such as Mallorca and Roger de Llúria were also cut off, with several bus routes also disrupted.

Turmoil after peaceful protests

This came after peaceful protests in the main cities of the country in the evening ended.

The two main pro-independence civil groups, ANC and Òmnium, were behind major candle-lit demonstrations that took place outside the offices of the Spanish government's delegations in the cities of Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. Only in the Catalan capital, 40,000 people gathered until around 9pm, close to where turmoil started shortly afterwards.

Calls for non-violence

Past midnight, some of Catalonia's top officials called on protesters to be non-violent.

The Catalan vice president, Pere Aragonès, urged pro-independence supporters to distance themselves from "violent attitudes", and implied that the altercations could be used as an excuse in Madrid to impose direct rule on Catalonia.

The government spokesperson, Meritxell Budó, called on people to demonstrate "in a peaceful and civil way." She also lamented the "altercation caused by violent groups with concealed face, with provocative attitudes."

Early on Wednesday morning, president Quim Torra called a meeting with key government officials, including Aragonès, Budó, and interior minister Miquel Buch.

In turn, Barcelona mayor Ada Colau called the use of fire barricades "unacceptable" and warned that "they put citizens at risk".

Meanwhile, the Spanish government lamented the "widespread violence" and promised to guarantee "civil coexistance". Spain's right-wing parties have repeatedly urged Pedro Sánchez's acting government to take over Catalan police.